Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
-Acts 2:37-38, KJV (quotation marks and emphasis added)
Is God’s forgiveness of us unconditional? (And by extension, do we need to forgive cheaters unconditionally?)
My answer to the first question is that it depends on what is meant regarding “unconditional.”
God’s forgiveness is not something anyone earns. It is not based on us proving our worthiness for forgiveness as no one could do so. We are unworthy of such extravagant mercy and grace. It is unconditional in the sense that we do not and cannot earn it.
However, it is conditional on the sense that the gift only works if it received. Such a gift of forgiveness cannot be received without repentance as I read Scripture. God will not force people to receive His offer of forgiveness. In His great love for us, He respects our agency and ability to reject His love (e.g. Hebrews 10:26-27).
God died for the entire world as I read Scripture (e.g. John 3:16). However, the whole world is not “saved” from damnation.
The difference between those who have eternal life (and are therefore forgiven) and those who do not is a difference of knowing Jesus and not knowing Jesus (see Mt 7:23).
No one who refuses to repent–i.e. turn from ongoing sin–is capable of knowing God. I John 3:6 makes that clear. This means repentance is required in some way in order to effectively receive God’s free gift of forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness is not conditioned on us “earning” or “deserving” it. However, it is conditioned on us receiving it.
An arrogant individual who defies God by refusing to repent is incapable of receiving such forgiveness. I do not see Scripture teaching that such an individual is unconditionally forgiven but rather that God will judge him/her (e.g. Heb. 10:26-27).
It is God’s place to judge and take vengeance (see Romans 12:19). This is in part why I instruct faithful spouses to hand over their injustices regarding an unrepentant cheater to God as oppose to try and usurp His place in taking revenge. Doing anything more than that is improper when dealing with an unrepentant cheater.
An unrepentant cheater is not in a place where he or she is capable of receiving forgiveness.
We are instructed to forgive as God forgave us (e.g. Ephesians 4:32). God ultimately does not forgive an unrepentant sinner as such a sinner cannot receive His gift. By continuing to sin, he or she is willfully defying God and thereby denying a need for such a gift.
So, a follower of Christ ought not to forgive an unrepentant cheater either in that sense.